Pictured above: Michael Holleran (far right) with Cardinal Timothy Dolan in 2016 during the parish centennial celebrations at the Church of Notre Dame.

Fr. Michael K. Holleran, a Catholic priest, Sensei (Zen Teacher) and a former Carthusian Monk, is Parochial Vicar at the Church of Notre Dame in New York City.

According to his biography on the website for the New-Age Copper Beech Institute, Holleran was ordained as a Jesuit, then left the order after five years to join the Carthusians: “In 2009, he was formally received as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and became a Sensei in the Zen tradition, at the hands of his longtime mentor, Roshi Robert Kennedy, S.J. He currently serves at Notre Dame Church in Morningside Heights, Manhattan and leads the Dragon’s Eye Zendo in midtown Manhattan.”

Referencing the Scripture reading: Romans 11:13-15, 29-32, during a 2014 homily, Holleran said:

The Jewish covenant was the natural olive tree and the gentiles have been grafted on, kinda stuck together…How is this gonna work? It doesn’t seem natural, it doesn’t seem right. He does use the phrase para phusis, which means not exactly against nature, but alongside nature, not what’s expected, not what’s supposed to work, not what’s supposed to be right. Bring in the gentiles…Interestingly, the same phrase, that I just pointed out, the very same phase, para phusis, he used in Chapter 1 talking about activity which today referring to homosexuality…against nature is too strong a translation. Its more like along side nature, not what we’d expect, not what’s customary, not what’s supposedly right. Is there a connection? Same phrase, by the same author, in the same letter. We should wake up to the fact that there are things we don’t understand. That’s gonna blow our minds, that are gonna bring us out of our comfort zone…supposedly contrary to what God said in the beginning…how are we not seeing these things? Well, I guess we’re not seeing them because maybe Jesus didn’t.

In 2017, Jesuit priest James Martin proposed that homosexuals are “differently ordered.”

During a lecture entitled: “Sodomites? Really?,” sponsored by the LGBT group at St. Paul’s the Apostle Church in New York City, on September 28, 2014, Holleran argued, among other things, that the Sodom and Gomorrah story had “nothing” to do with homosexuality, as, according to him “they must be understood in the context of their time.” With regards to the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, according to Holleran, they are built upon “shaky ground.”  He said:

“…if a sincere gay person, for example, is struggling with his or her own inner discovery, then says let me look at Scripture – oh, it doesn’t say what they always said if you look at it from this point of view…then maybe my experience does have some validity…On the levels of truth that everything is infallible – This is on shaky ground according to the way it’s been presented to me and been presented over the centuries, then I actually have not only a right but a duty maybe to start questioning this. And to say maybe my experience – What Jesus is saying to me now! What the spirit is saying to the Churches now! …is something really important that we need to hear.”

He envisions change within the Church, like James Martin, through dialogue: “love shows itself in the ability to dialogue.” As an example, he pointed to a meeting between a Catholic Bishop and a “gay couple;” as he related the story, Fr. Holleran said that, afterwards, the Bishop remarked: “…how can we call people like that objectively disordered?” Holleran concluded: “what transforms hearts is when you really actually do hear people’s experience.” In his book “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” James Martin said the same thing:

Many church leaders do not know L.G.B.T. people who are public about their sexuality. That lack of familiarity and friendship means it is more difficult to be sensitive. How can you be sensitive to a person’s situation if you don’t know them?

Holleran also described “The Holy Trinity” as an example of “an alternative lifestyle. During this same talk, Holleran mentioned how he discussed all of these issues with a confused same-sex attracted young man: “I had a young gay man, last year, who came to me for spiritual direction.” Holleran then described how he schooled him on just how wrong the Church is about homosexuality.

During a “Gay Spirituality” retreat held at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Brooklyn, Holleran claimed that “gay” men are more receptive to spirituality because they practice anal sex:

“…men hate church and spirituality because they have to sit still and they have to be receptive. There is nothing more threatening to a male than being receptive. I mean, think about it sexually – maybe that’s why gay men are more ready for it.” 

He also said: “I don’t care what people say, I think Gay Pride Parade is wonderful; all those people dancing around with not many clothes on…it’s beautiful.”

Concerning the New York City Gay Pride Parade, in his Introduction to Fr. John Harvey’s book “The Truth About Homosexuality” (1996), Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. made the following observation:

I recently viewed the Gay Pride Parade during a prayer vigil alongside St. Patrick’s Cathedral and saw an incredible display of self-defeating and self-deprecating behavior…when one considers the ruin of human lives, the persistent spread of AIDS by promiscuous sexual activity, and the psychological conflict one observes in the gay scene, the haunting question comes, “Can I approve of behavior that so frequently leads to destruction?” 

In 2014, Holleran lead a discussion on John J. McNeill’s books “Taking a Chance on God,” for the St. Francis [de Sales] Gay Straight Catholic Alliance Book Club; in that particular work, McNeill proposed an all-inclusive type of Christian spirituality which meets the “special needs” of lesbians and gays; McNeill also stated that: “In all cultures and in every period of history, a certain percentage of men and women develop as gays and lesbians. These individuals could be considered as part of God’s creative plan. Their sexual orientation has no necessary connection with sin, sickness, or failure; rather, it is a gift from God to be accepted and lived out with gratitude. God does not despise anything that God has created.”

In the St Francis Xavier Church bulletin, appeared a blurb (May 8, 2016) advertising a course to be given by Holleran. The topic of Fr. Holleran’s presentation: Amoris Laetitia. During his talk, Holleran openly questioned Pope Francis’ statements regarding modern gender theory and homosexuality – Holleran said:

“We have to welcome gay people and accept them as they are and accept it’s not a changeable thing, it’s not a choice – the Church does say that.”

On June 8, 2017, during a Facebook Live James Martin said:

That’s the way God created you. I think almost every psychologist and biologist and scientist would agree on that; and certainly LGBT people will tell you that’s the way they always felt – that they had been created that way.

In 2016, Holleran offered a course on “How to Approach the Bible.” He said:

You absolutely can not go back to any text in the Hebrew Scriptures and say this is valid now, including all the stuff against gays or whatever it is. Because it’s not the way to read the Bible.

Again, James Martin says the same:

All these Bible passages that people throw at you; I think really need to be understood in their historical context. I mean Leviticus and Deuteronomy and even the stuff from the New Testament where Paul talks about it once or twice, has to be understood in their historical context…certainly in Old Testament times, they didn’t understand the phenomena of homosexuality and bisexuality as we do today. 

From June 29th to July 1, 2018, Holleran [offered] a retreat at the Copper Beech Institute entitled: Buddha & Christ: Their Life & Destiny. According to the description for the retreat:

Both Buddhism and Christianity begin with actual historical figures. Come and explore their lives and the fascinating points of comparison. Also, see how their followers treated the two in succeeding centuries, and how they might collaborate today to uplift the consciousness of humanity — and your own!

In 2009, Holleran took part in a Zen ceremony in which he “received Dharma Transmission as a Sensei in the White Plum Asanga of the Zen tradition” from Roshi Robert Kennedy, S.J. – Kennedy is a professor emeritus at Saint Peter’s University in New Jersey.

Please contact the Archdiocese of New York:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Phone: 212-371-1000

1011 First Ave
New York, NY 10022